Phone InterviewI received a call yesterday from an unknown number in Colorado. I’m not big on answering unknown calls from outside Southern California because they are rarely anything but automated marketing calls.

For whatever, reason I thought this call would be different, and I was right.

It was a recruiter that had found my resume on What was funny is that she knew it was an old resume (at least two years old), but when she Googled me, she found my LinkedIn profile and thought I would be a good fit for the position she was looking to fill.

I was flattered, but by following the steps below, I found that the position was not something that interested me, yet I still gained a new connection and started a relationship I may one day have a need for.

I thought this would be a great experience to share because not only was it a result of my online professional brand; it’s also something that might someday happen to you, and it’s important to know how to handle the situation. First things first:


Ask Questions

When a recruiter reaches out to you out of the blue, the first thing you want to do is ask qualifying questions.

You do this so that you can make a decision quickly about whether this opportunity is worth consideration or not. This is to avoid wasting your time on an interview that isn’t a fit.

Remember that recruiters are sales people, too. They’re trying to sell the position and company to you. They will focus on the positives of the job and company; it’s your job to vet the opportunity to see if it will be a fit for you.

Some questions you might want to ask include:

  • Why is this position available? Is the company growing? Was there a recent ownership change? Was the last person fired? These factors might influence your decision to continue.
  • Why do you feel I’m a good fit? This is also a great sales technique I learned during my sales training. Let them sell themselves on why you’re a good candidate for the spot. If they say, “You have experience in blue widgets” and you hated your time working in the blue widget industry, you’ve steered clear of a bad fit.




Give Them a Straight Answer

Once you’ve qualified the position to your satisfaction, you should be able to give them a straight answer right away. It’s a professional courtesy to not waste their time, because I’m sure they aren’t trying to waste yours.

You can give them a simple “Yes, I’m interested” or “No thank you,” but I believe there is a much better response.

If you’re interested, then you’ll likely discuss next steps with them, including setting up a more formal interview. Your response should include your expectations moving forward, as well as what your current situation is. Many people prefer to keep their job search a secret from their current employer, so be sure to mention that up front. Every recruiter will understand, respect and know how to handle that. Also be sure to ask if there is any travel required for the interview process. When I interviewed for my current role, I had to fly to Ohio for a night.

My answer for this particular recruiter, however, was a confident no.

One of my qualifying questions was, “Is this an individual sales role or a sales management position?” The position title wasn’t very helpful. So my response to her was short but to the point:

I’m flattered you reached out, but I’m very happy in my current role. I’m not interested in a lateral move like that right now. I’d really only be in a position to consider moving for a sales management role. My experience and skill set lend themselves to leading a team.

She appreciated my candidness and understood my motivation for not wanting to discuss the current open position further.


Keep the Conversation Open

Although I wasn’t interested in this position, that doesn’t mean that later down the road I wouldn’t value being connected to her.

I can’t predict the future, but I can definitely prepare for it. I can’t predict changes in my job status through more than my actions. The fact that she found my experience appealing now means she very well might later, as well.

I asked to connect with her on LinkedIn to stay in touch in the hopes that one day we may be able to help each other out. I love connecting with recruiters. They have great networks and are great friends to have when you find yourself looking for a job.


Offer to Help

Finally, you want to offer to help them out if you can.

If they’re looking at you to fill their position, then it’s very likely you know others in the industry who might be a good fit for the job as well. Not only can you help them; you may also be able to help an out-of-work friend or network connection. It’s often a win-win.

Not only does this create a new relationship; they recruiter will feel like they owe you one. When the time comes and you are looking for a new position, you’ll have one more strong relationship you can leverage.

I asked this recruiter to send me the job description and said that if I can think of anyone who’d fit it,  I’ll pass them along.


“No” Is Not Forever

There is a right way and a wrong way to turn someone down. (Click here to tweet this thought.) As a professional, you’re in a much better position if you strengthen your network instead of just trying to get someone the phone as quickly as possible.

Yes, a simple “no, not interested” followed by a dial tone will get you back to what you were doing faster, but it does nothing for you and could potentially eliminate you from that recruiter’s candidate pool completely.

Be professional, be courteous, and always be connected.

How have you been able to leverage recruiters and other connections even when it didn’t “work out”?

This post originally appeared on the Sales Pro Blog.

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